As tough as it may seem to break into the freelance game journalism industry, an even more daunting task awaits you once you’ve managed to get yourself published: keeping your readers coming back for more. Fortunatly, one way to keep readers hooked is a rather simple method: offering your opinion on something and then asking for their input. If there’s one thing readers enjoy more than reading articles, it’s contributing their own comments and feedback on the subject matter. Engaging your readers can be done in a variety of ways, five of which I’ve outlined below.
Engage with social polls
Few things get your readers engaged faster than giving them a bunch of different choices and then saying “pick one.” Polls are not only a great way to get your readers invested, they also let readers see how other readers voted, letting them feel like they’re part of an actual discussion. Even better, you can turn virtually any discussion into a poll, everything from what a reader’s favorite character is in a specific game to how they feel about a major event that affects the entire industry such as a console launch or new game announcement.
If you feel social polls would be something you’d want to bring to your readers, getting started is easy. Making a free account at OpinionStage.com (www.opinionstage.com) allows you to craft custom polls using a variety of different options and features. Then, using simple copy/paste HTML short-codes, you can insert your poll directly into your article no matter which publishing platform you use: WordPress, Blogspot, Tumblr, Joomla, or Weebly.
Engage with reader discussion
If you’re offering your opinion on a subject which you feel may not work so well as a poll (perhaps you’re taking a very specific viewpoint on the subject or maybe you’re trying to argue against popular opinion), writing a reader discussion is the next best thing. Reader discussions allow you to craft your own thought-out opinion on a subject and then ask readers whether they agree or disagree. If you feel your website’s comments section could use a little attention, a solid reader discussion piece will do the trick.
Engage with top lists
It’s probably safe to assume that at some point somebody’s asked you “Hey, what’s your favorite [insert game, movie, book, etc. here]? Is it better than [insert different game, movie or book, etc. here]? How would you rank them?” Now imagine taking that same line of questioning and posing it to your readers while offering your own top list of a specific game-related subject.
Top lists are not only a great way to share your opinion on multiple entries within the same subject matter, they can also help generate more traffic since you can devote an entire web page to each entry, turning a typical one-page article into a five, ten, or even fifteen-page list! If you often find yourself comparing multiple games in a series or multiple developers within the same genre, top lists may be right up your alley.
Engage with trailer analysis
One thing developers love to do to hype up their upcoming games is to release new “teaser trailers” for them and one way you can help engage your readers is by offering your own analysis of those trailers. By breaking down the trailer and discussing specific elements, you can help build hype for a game both you and your readers are looking forward to and maybe even help your readers notice things they might not have noticed before.
Make sure you list specific time stamps when discussing a particular moment or scene (“check out what happens at the 2:15 marker!”). Also, don’t forget to include the trailer within the article itself (or at least a link to it). Lastly, if you do include the trailer in your article, just check and make sure it doesn’t have another site’s watermark (if they game’s developer has its own YouTube page, that’s usually a safe place to grab the trailer from).
Engage with interviews
If your readers are excited about a particular game, what better way to get them flocking to your site than by providing new info straight from the horse’s mouth? If you’re still relatively new to the game journalism scene, getting Naughty Dog or Bethesda or BioWare to respond to your emails may be a bit of a challenge but smaller game studios (indie studios in particular) are almost always looking for new ways to get some press for their game and that’s what you can provide by offering to interview them.
Interviewing a developer doesn’t have to be a formal affair. Most developers will be fine with an informal email interview; just email them 4-5 questions and let them know they can send back the answers at their own convenience. Then, once they send back the answers, you can structure your article as a Q&A, copy/paste in the questions and answers, hit publish, and you’re golden. It’s a win/win/win for everyone; the developer gets some free press, you get to publish an official interview with an established studio, and your readers get the inside scoop on a new or upcoming game!
The above templates are just a few ways you can keep your readers directly engaged while honing your own writing talents at the same time. These and other types of articles can help keep your site’s traffic up during lulls between major game releases and they can also help you establish your own unique voice within the industry. Readers can go anywhere to read a game review or piece of news, but keeping your audience engaged and, more importantly, letting them engage back is what will really make you stand out from the rest.
About the author:
Shortly after graduating from college, Nate realized that his writing skills were at their strongest when he applied them towards what he is truly passionate about: gaming. While he does enjoy covering the latest happenings within the gaming industry, Nate is also keenly aware of how gaming affects other aspects of our culture such as politics, history, social media, and the arts and, naturally, enjoys writing about them even more so. Nate is currently based in his home state of Massachusetts where he balances his freelance writing career along with helping his folks care for their three horses.
Also by Nathaniel Hohl:
1. How to Use Your Publisher’s Backend Content Management System (article)
2. Writing Your First Freelance Video Game Review (article)